Mediterranean Ecosystems: Structures and Processes

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Results Packs. About us. Fact Sheet. Objective The project is aimed to the better understanding of the dynamics and degradation processes of Mediterranean ecosystems, based on the premise that the prevention and reversal of desertification depends on the processes which determine vegetation structure as it is the plant cover which protects the soil from erosion and determines ecosystem function. The project will provide a completed version of a model of vegetation dynamics at a range of different spatial and temporal scales. A modular modelling approach has been used to scale up from a dynamic, time-dependent simulation of plant species behaviour to the level of the landscape thus bridging the gap between species-level and GIS-orientated models.

To this aim, the ecophysiological behaviour of several dominant species of Mediterranean vegetation is under characterisation to parameterise an Individual Based Plant Community Level Model.

Shaping Life: The Geology of Mediterranean-Climate Ecosystems

Another version of the model will be based on a Transition Matrix approach with reference to major vegetation types. A simplified version of the simulation model will be associated with a multimedia hypertext for educational applications. This will provide information on a selected number of reference study cases of changing land use scenarios in different Mediterranean countries.

Programme s FP4-ENV 2C - Specific programme of research and technological development in the field of environment and climate, Topic s - Land resources and the threat of desertification and soil erosion in Europe. Sort alphabetically Expand all. Start date 1 May End date 31 August Deliverables Deliverables not available. Publications Publications not available. Last update: 8 October Record number: Follow us on:. Managed by the EU Publications Office.

However, a critical drawback is that the technique does not account for the effects of interactions, which are often both complex and fundamental in maintaining an ecosystem and can involve species that are not readily detected as a priority. Even so, estimating the functional structure of an ecosystem and combining it with information about individual species traits can help us understand the resilience of an ecosystem amidst environmental change.

Many ecologists also believe that the provision of ecosystem services can be stabilized with biodiversity. Increasing biodiversity also benefits the variety of ecosystem services available to society. Understanding the relationship between biodiversity and an ecosystem's stability is essential to the management of natural resources and their services.

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The concept of ecological redundancy is sometimes referred to as functional compensation and assumes that more than one species performs a given role within an ecosystem. The redundancy hypothesis can be summarized as "species redundancy enhances ecosystem resilience". Another idea uses the analogy of rivets in an airplane wing to compare the exponential effect the loss of each species will have on the function of an ecosystem; this is sometimes referred to as rivet popping.

The hypothesis assumes that species are relatively specialized in their roles and that their ability to compensate for one another is less than in the redundancy hypothesis.

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Mediterranean Ecosystems - Structures and Processes | F.M. Faranda | Springer

As a result, the loss of any species is critical to the performance of the ecosystem. The key difference is the rate at which the loss of species affects total ecosystem functioning. A third explanation, known as the portfolio effect , compares biodiversity to stock holdings, where diversification minimizes the volatility of the investment, or in this case, the risk of instability of ecosystem services. When considered together, they create a stabilizing function that preserves the integrity of a service. Several experiments have tested these hypotheses in both the field and the lab.

In ECOTRON, a laboratory in the UK where many of the biotic and abiotic factors of nature can be simulated, studies have focused on the effects of earthworms and symbiotic bacteria on plant roots. However, a study on grasslands at Cedar Creek Reserve in Minnesota supports the redundancy hypothesis, as have many other field studies. There are questions regarding the environmental and economic values of ecosystem services. Although environmental awareness is rapidly improving in our contemporary world, ecosystem capital and its flow are still poorly understood, threats continue to impose, and we suffer from the so-called ' tragedy of the commons '.

The economic valuation of ecosystem services also involves social communication and information, areas that remain particularly challenging and are the focus of many researchers. The six major methods for valuing ecosystem services in monetary terms are: [41]. Although monetary pricing continues with respect to the valuation of ecosystem services, the challenges in policy implementation and management are significant and multitudinous.

The administration of common pool resources is a subject of extensive academic pursuit.

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Considering options must balance present and future human needs, and decision-makers must frequently work from valid but incomplete information. Existing legal policies are often considered insufficient since they typically pertain to human health-based standards that are mismatched with necessary means to protect ecosystem health and services. To improve the information available, one suggestion has involved the implementation of an Ecosystem Services Framework ESF [48] , which integrates the biophysical and socio-economic dimensions of protecting the environment and is designed to guide institutions through multidisciplinary information and jargon, helping to direct strategic choices.

Novel and expedient methods are needed to deal with managing Earth's ecosystem services. Local to regional collective management efforts might be considered appropriate for services like crop pollination or resources like water. Payment and trading of services is an emerging worldwide small-scale solution where one can acquire credits for activities such as sponsoring the protection of carbon sequestration sources or the restoration of ecosystem service providers.

In some cases, banks for handling such credits have been established and conservation companies have even gone public on stock exchanges, defining an evermore parallel link with economic endeavors and opportunities for tying into social perceptions. Another approach has been focused on protecting ecosystem service ' hotspots '. Recognition that the conservation of many ecosystem services aligns with more traditional conservation goals i. This may be particularly strategic when employing networks that permit the flow of services across landscapes , and might also facilitate securing the financial means to protect services through a diversification of investors.

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For example, in recent years there has been interest in the valuation of ecosystem services provided by shellfish production and restoration. There is also increasing recognition that some shellfish species may impact or control many ecological processes; so much so that they are included on the list of "ecosystem engineers"—organisms that physically, biologically or chemically modify the environment around them in ways that influence the health of other organisms. Ecosystem-based adaptation or EbA is an emerging strategy for community development and environmental management that seeks to use an ecosystem services framework to help communities adapt to the effects of climate change.

The Convention on Biological Diversity currently defines Ecosystem-Based Adaptation as "the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change", which includes the use of "sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems, as part of an overall adaptation strategy that takes into account the multiple social, economic and cultural co-benefits for local communities".

In , the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment announced that humanity's impact on the natural world was increasing to levels never before seen, and that the degradation of the planet's ecosystems would become a major barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In recognition of this fact, Ecosystem-Based Adaptation seeks to use the restoration of ecosystems as a stepping-stone to improving the quality of life in communities experiencing the impacts of climate change.

Specifically, this involves the restoration of ecosystems that provide the community with essential services, such as the provisioning of food and water and protection from storm surges and flooding.

EbA interventions typically combine elements of both climate change mitigation and adaptation to global warming to help address the community's current and future needs. Collaborative planning between scientists, policy makers, and community members is an essential element of Ecosystem-Based Adaptation. By drawing on the expertise of outside experts and local residents alike, EbA seeks to develop unique solutions to unique problems, rather than simply replicating past projects.

Ecosystem services are defined as the gains acquired by humankind from surroundings ecosystems. Four different types of ecosystem services have been distinguished by the scientific body: regulating services, provisioning services, cultural services and supporting services. An ecosystem does not necessarily offer all four types of services simultaneously; but given the intricate nature of any ecosystem, it is usually assumed that humans benefit from a combination of these services.

The services offered by diverse types of ecosystems forests, seas, coral reefs, mangroves, etc. In fact, some services directly affect the livelihood of neighboring human populations such as fresh water, food or aesthetic value, etc.


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Estuarine and coastal ecosystems are both marine ecosystems. An estuary is defined as the area in which a river meets the sea or the ocean. The waters surrounding this area are predominantly salty waters or brackish waters; and the incoming river water is dynamically motioned by the tide.

A coastal ecosystem occurs in areas where the sea or ocean waters meet the land. Regulating services are the "benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes". Both the biotic and abiotic ensembles of marine ecosystems play a role in climate regulation. They act as sponges when it comes to gases in the atmosphere, retaining large levels of CO 2 and other greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. Marine plants also use CO 2 for photosynthesis purposes and help in reducing the atmospheric CO 2. The oceans and seas absorb the heat from the atmosphere and redistribute it through the means of water currents, and atmospheric processes, such as evaporation and the reflection of light allow for the cooling and warming of the overlying atmosphere.

The Fire in the Mediterranean Region: A Case Study of Forest Fires in Portugal

The ocean temperatures are thus imperative to the regulation of the atmospheric temperatures in any part of the world: "without the ocean, the Earth would be unbearably hot during the daylight hours and frigidly cold, if not frozen, at night". Another service offered by marine ecosystem is the treatment of wastes, thus helping in the regulation of diseases.

Coastal and estuarine ecosystems act as buffer zones against natural hazards and environmental disturbances, such as floods, cyclones, tidal surges and storms. The role they play is to "[absorb] a portion of the impact and thus [lessen] its effect on the land". Villages that were surrounded with mangrove forests encountered less damages than other villages that weren't protected by mangroves.

Provisioning services consist of all "the products obtained from ecosystems". Humans consume a large number of products originating from the seas, whether as a nutritious product or for use in other sectors: "More than one billion people worldwide, or one-sixth of the global population, rely on fish as their main source of animal protein. In , marine and coastal fisheries accounted for 12 per cent of world food production".

A very pertinent example would be sushi, the national food of Japan, which consists mostly of different types of fish and seaweed. Water bodies that are not highly concentrated in salts are referred to as 'fresh water' bodies. Fresh water may run through lakes, rivers and streams, to name a few; but it is most prominently found in the frozen state or as soil moisture or buried deep underground.